You Can Have It All, Just Not All at Once

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You can have it all; you just can’t have it all, all at once.

I arise each weekday long before the sun, and, by the time I arrive at the office around 9, I've spent almost 90 minutes breathing, flowing, and sweating through a vigorous Ashtanga yoga practice. I've called my mother. And I've had my morning cup of coffee.

I work all day, pausing to eat a breakfast and lunch I made myself, from scratch.
At night, I teach yoga, I run, I take Spinning classes, I (rarely) meet friends. I run errands.

Then I make dinner.

After dinner, there's dirty laundry, dirty dishes, quality time with Sam and the cats, cleaning up, packing tomorrow's breakfast and lunch, setting out yoga and work clothes, returning emails, and so much more.

Though I intend to be in bed by 10, it's usually 11:30 when my head hits the pillow--and that's often the first time I've sat down since leaving work (aside from dinner). I awake the next day and do it all again.

Though I love my life, each night, before I fall asleep, there is that fleeting moment of panic: I didn't do ____. I should have done more/less ____. I need to ____.

Enough, I tell myself, when that self-doubt pipes up. You've done enough.

I repeat my mantra:
I did my best today.
I'll do better tomorrow.

There are only 24 hours in a day. I can only do so much and still be happy and healthy. To be healthy and happy, that means some things are sacrificed:
I missed the weeknight meetup with my gal pals. I should call my sister. I'm long overdue for a trim.

My floors need mopping. My kitchen table is cluttered. The bathroom probably needs a good scrubbing.
I should respond to that work email. I wish I had more time to read. I haven't spent more than a few minutes journaling in several weeks.

I think back to advice that a successful woman once shared with me: You can have it all; you just can’t have it all, all at once. No matter who are you: man, woman, mother, single gal, homemaker, corporate executive. We aren't perfect, and our identity and priorities must be flexible in order to succeed at anything.

One of my favorite assignments during my stint as a business reporter was interviewing some of Cincinnati’s YWCA Career Women of Achievement.
I was 26, and I was struggling. I wasn’t happy with my career path, and I knew I wanted to make healthy living a part of my work. But I didn’t know where to start. I had a great mentor/editor, but what she wanted for me was different from what I wanted for myself. 

I was ready to change, but I didn’t know how.

Then this assignment landed in my lap. Over the course of a month, I interviewed 10 career women who were receiving the honor that year, along with several who had received it in years past.

Those women are pillars of the business community.  Those interviews happened mere weeks before I found the job with SparkPeople, and I truly believe that assignment changed my life.

Two bits of advice stuck with me:
"Live every day to exhaustion," from a medical doctor who is an executive at a large consumer-goods company

"You can have it all; you just can’t have it all, all at once," from a former bank president turned civic leader.

That first one I've mastered. (Haven't we all?) It's that second one we're focusing on today.

She said that she struggled throughout her career because she wanted to be the best, all the time: the best mom, the best wife, the best employee, the best boss, the best friend. Eventually, someone told her what she told me. Just as you can please some people all the time and all the people some of the time, you can be the best at one thing all of the time or all of those things some of the time.

Some days, some weeks, some years, your focus might be your career. Other fires will suffer: friends, family, healthy. Other times, health is at the forefront.

At the end of the day, when you're lying in bed, exhausted because you've taken from life all you can, remember that. So what if you only worked out for 20 minutes instead of 30, or if you had to ask your partner for help with dinner--or (gasp!) ordered takeout? So what if I left the mail on the table and need to wash yesterday's workout clothes?

You did the best you could today. Tomorrow you'll again do your best. That might mean a longer workout, a shorter workday, dinner in the slow cooker that's waiting on you when you come home. It might also mean an extra hour of sleep, leaving the laundry for one more day, or turning off your phone to get some "me" time.

When we learn to stop demanding perfection of ourselves, we're able to keep ourselves from being our own worst enemy. Whether it's weight loss, career goals, or other issues in your life, keep that in mind. We're all human. We're all trying our best. We're all busy.

Do as much as you can each day, and know that there's always tomorrow. 

Do you struggle to have it all, all at once? Which areas did you succeed in today? How do you keep your life in balance? 

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Your title "You can have it all. Just not all at once" is actually a quote from Oprah Winfrey. If you are going to use someone else's quote you should credit them. Report
What an inspiring blog! I'm 53 and have always felt I had to justify my feelings. Its nice to know that I am not alone and not crazy. Thank you Report
What a great blog! I often struggled with attempting to do too much on a daily basis but since beginning my healthy lifestyle I have concentrated on making time for me. Doing so has allowed me to increase my energy level and tackle other parts of life. I have learned to prioritize and release the guilt I use to feel when I was unable to complete a task. I have learned that there is always tomorrow. Thank you for vindicating my thinking. Report
Wow, this article was just the boost I needed, thank you. Report
Wow, just when I needed a boost, it was right on time! Beautifully stated. Report
Excellent blog! One of the best quotes I've seen and I'm not sure who actually said it but it was, "Don't let perfection become the enemy of good." Perfection keeps us from starting things but with good we can all get started and make progress towards our goals. Daily progress is what built the pyramids and got us to the moon and back. Report
I really liked this blog. Here's the thing. We may not have tomorrow. This is not predicated on death necessarily. Children grow up and moments are foregone. Set priorities accordingly, and factor in values that mean the most to you. Building / managing a career can conflict with spending time with family. Balance in all things. I never did get it quite right, but at the end of the day, I did the best I could at the time, given the understanding I had. Report
This is an excellent article and it's a timely one to remind us that we have to be our own best friend. With the worldwide economy the way it is, it's almost always that women take on a stronger role in managing crisis of any nature - I believe that, most of the time, we are stoic and steady, ready to do battle at the shortest possible notice and under any circumstances...what we don't do so well as wives, daughters, mums and employees is to cut ourselves some slack now and then. Thank you for reminding us about who we are and how much we always do! Report
This may be because I just did some Ashtanga yoga but this sounds a LOT like what I always try to do when I am doing it; you find the sweet spot, what you need for that night - work it till you know it's good and stretched, sometimes setting aside other plans you had for the flow - and remember that your choice was the right one for that moment, for the evening, and be at peace with what you sacrificed to meet that need. You reminded me to stop, settle, find that sweet spot for the day, week, month or even year (late New Year's resolutions anyone?) and (deeeeep breath).....fooooocuuuus. Exhaustion doesn't have to mean sore muscles and sleep deprivation every day right!? :) Report
Love the mantra! Report
I can totally agree with this! There are so many days when I feel I could do more, but so few when I say "I'm satisfied with what I did today". It feels relieving that somebody else was thinking about the same thing and succeeded at finding a solution! Report
My mantra for some time now has been, "I am doing the best I can." That's a reminder to myself and to all of the people in my life that there is only so much I can do in any given day...if they want more to get done, they can help me!

I would say I am in the first generation of women who were really able to reap the benefits of the women's movement in terms of the choices that were open and available to us. As wonderful, and I believe necessary, as that was, I have often said that what we did was set ourselves up to be Wonder Woman. For in reality, we still have to do all or most of the things our mothers and grandmothers did, but with the added expectation of being a great career woman on top of it!

You are right: we can't do it all at once. Setting priorities and planning, giving ourselves credit for all the things we have done and ALWAYS taking care of ourselves first are the things that will help us pull this off successfully. Otherwise we get completely overwhelmed and run this risk of becoming paralyzed and not accomplishing any of the things we want.

Now I have to run and pick my son up from a tutoring session and take him to work. It never ends!! Report
Kudos! This is one of the best blogs I've ever read...and I've read a lot! I am one of those that suffers from wanting to be the best at EVERYTHING I do. I appreciate the fact that I am not alone in my affliction, and I appreciate even more that we are all strong for each other. I will forever remember this blog post and try to live it. Thanks! Report
we can all learn from this--tks Report
Great blog! It is difficult to find balance and try to do it all perfectly. I decided one day that maybe the house doesn't really need to be cleaned constantly, and I don't like cooking much, although I'm getting better as I try to fit in healthier meals. Some nights we are on our own and DH loves Ramen meals. So he gets his fix of junk, and some healthy meals too. On accasion we get takeout when I'm in a planning rut and just don't want to think about food any longer, or preparing it, shopping for it, etc. So we have frozen backups, many of which were made in a crockpot and frozen. Now when I use the crockpot, I use 2 at one time, make extra and freeze some. As far as exercise goes, it's the first thing I do when I get home after work. I have about 1 and 15 min of "alone time". This is my exercise/"me" time. This is when the house is quiet and I can concentrate. But I don't want to spend everyday exercising for hours, so I workout 4-5 days per week. Some may only be 20 min. 2 mile workouts, then others I go for a longer more intense workouts and have a little less "me" time. Then I move on to dinner/cleaning. But now I do certain chores during the week in order to have most of Saturday's free. It's helped a lot so I don't get into cleaning every night of the week. I don't want my days to be a frenzy of "stuff". And quite frankly, even if exercise time was cut, or me time is cut., I could still clean myself silly and be exhausted every night. Having some sort of system works. Thanks for the blog! Report
Thank you for sharing this. Report
A great reminder!! Report
This blog came at just the right time. Right now I'm struggling with impatience, wanting to "get my life in order" all at once - find a job that uses my new degree, make more money, get my budget in order, buy a house - but not being able to do that. I've been under the impression that everything hinges on finding a job, but lately I've been tweaking my budget and finding ways to save while I'm still on the job hunt. This blog inspires me to do what I can, when I can until that dream job appears! Report
I needed this today, I feel overwhelmed by life a lot lately and feel like I will never get where I need to be. This is a great blog! Report
Boy did I ever need this today. I'm struggling with the balance between work and family. Right now, it's not working out so well. Report
Sure, it's difficult to run my Fortune 500 company while tending to my seven grands, two cockatiels, and lizard, but hey - someone's gotta do it, right? I eat my Wheaties and hope for the best. Report
Awesome Article. It is very well written and to the point. Everything hits home.Thank You for writing and sharing it with us. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
Very true - this is true about work, play, family, and food. You can have and do anything you want; you just can't do and have ALL of everything at the same time. Thanks for the reminder Report
Great blog! Love the "Live every day to exhaustion" mantra.
Good one. I wouldn't want to sustain your pace, but a lot of what you said reflects my desire to do it all, do it right, right now--the perfect perfectionist stance--and my tendency to be hard on myself when I can't. Lots of food for thought. Report
This article really resonated with me, as I'm interested in so many things and have so many disparate goals. I try to do them all and manage to do a little of each, but end up exhausted and not making huge progress on any of them. I know I should focus on one or two at a time, but it's hard to put the others aside. Report
What a great article, and a great reminder to us all not to regret what we haven't done, but to celebrate what we have accomplished. Thanks! Report
thanks ....just what I've been telling myself I need to put it into practice! Report
Reading your day, I would say you are sleep deprived! (Up before the sun, and not in bed till 11:30?) that's one part of "all" I learned-the HARD way--not to short-change. Report
food for thought Report
Thank you!! This a Great Blog. I love it. Opened my eyes! :) Report
How true Stephanie, what a great article! Thanks! Report
"Live every day to exhaustion"

This quote from your blog jumped out at me. I need to keep this in mind.....there are too many days when I waste too much time. Thanks for the inspiration! Report
very true. life picks up speed and pow a year has gone by and I am left wondering what happened. sometimes, like you, i just need to draw a circle around myself and hang up a no trespassing sign, even for a few hours. to effectively give to others, you must first take care of yourself. excellent point... now, about that ME time..... Report
I have definitely wanted a lot of things and all at once! As soon as I would achieve one thing, I'd want the next and the next and the next. But we can't have everything at once. Things come in their due time. Report
This is just what I needed to hear! I'm a perfectionist and always feel like I'm dropping the ball in some area of my life as a mom, wife, and daycare teacher, and now student. It's good to hear you can be the best at some things all the time, or all things some of the time. So true! Report
Laziness or depression (or some combination of both) is something I have been trying to work through. I love the advice at the end, but the words that really jump out at me right now are:

"Live every day to exhaustion"

Right now I live every day until mildly sleepy and slightly bored so I go to bed. Or I live it until 3 AM because I couldn't stop reading that book that I read from cover to cover after work and I haven't done a damned thing around the house.

"Live every day to exhaustion."

I have just printed out this phrase and hung it over my desk. Report
I don't struggle with perfectionism; I struggle more with the guilt that comes from NOT worrying about it. Instead of spreading myself too thin, I tend to focus on one or two things at a time and let other things go until I can't stand it anymore. That's where I beat myself up. If I'm focusing on a clean house, my exercise, schoolwork, or current creative project suffers; if I focus on exercise, healthy meal planning/preparing and Spark-tracking everything, I neglect time with the family, schoolwork, or creative project. I need to have a way to keep a healthy rotation going so that everythiing gets some of my attention within a reasonable frame of time--and keep the right priorities. Report
The way I learned it is this: We are all juggling balls. Some balls are rubber, so if you drop them they'll bounce back. Some balls are wooden, so if you drop them, they'll stay down until you reach and pick them up again. But some balls are glass, and those are the ones that you want to pay attention to! For me, my family is glass, my job...not so much.
Thanks for the blog! Report
I have five children and never bought into the "Superwoman" routine. I was always frugal. Report
Thanks ,,,,You are right we can be our own worst enemy....I tend to do that a lot. I love the saying,,You can have it all: you just can't have it all at once Report
Really liked the mantra. Report
Just what I needed to hear! Since hitting my weight goal in November, I'm now trying to declutter/clean my house & keep up with the cooking, healthy eating, working out, etc. But you're right, I'm doing the best I can every day! Report
Thanks!! I really needed to read this!! Report
Thank you for writing this, as it will help me keep things in perspective. I have been focusing so much on household perfection, helping grown kids with crises, etc. that I have let my own health goals slip into the background. I have renewed my efforts to keep my health goals in the foreground, and needed this reminder that I must prioritize because I simply won't be able to have perfection in all areas of my life at once! Report
Thanks for this... I really needed to read this today!! Report
What perfect timing! I woke up this morning looking at my list of things to do, and I was letting myself become overwhelmed by what I would not be able to do. Then I read your post. It was inspiring and a wonderful reminder to let go of the unnecessary stress we put on oneself. Thank you for posting this! Report
We've all been there! I have one suggestion - I also like a clean house, but who says I have to be the one to mop those floors and clean the bathroom? Get a once a week or every 2 week cleaning service. Keep it to the basics (mopping, vacuuming, bathrooms, dusting) and you will be amazed how much that can help take pressure off. You all work hard - needing household help is not a crime - and it also employs someone who may not otherwise have a job. Of course, check references and quality of work first! Report
I just had a blow out with my husband, who is the best person in the world, but it was over this very thing. He says I never EVER chill out, I say I do, each night after the gym I take a long bath (at least 30 mins!) and most every night I read in bed...those are the only times I 'chill'...and sometimes I burst because I run myself into the ground.

I could have wrote this article word for word.

Thank you so much for reminding me I am not the only woman/mother that has these same issues! Report
I am not sure if I struggle to have it all, all at once or guilty that I am unable to do it all within the day. I try to balance it all by making shorter to do list and delegating DH and the children to help out in some areas. Sometimes this actually works. Report